Your core muscles are vital in performing almost every movement you make, especially when cycling. These muscles work together with the leg muscles when cycling. No matter how strong your legs are or how awesome your electric bike might be, they will not be of much help if you have an unstable core. You can strengthen your core muscles by doing the following core exercises for cyclists:
1. Single-leg Crunch
This type of exercise works the lower back, obliques and the transverse abdominus. To do this exercise, lie on a mat face up with your left leg stretched out, and the right knee bent, making sure the right foot stays flat on the ground. Next, place your arms right next to you. Now, as you squeeze your belly button towards your spine, take the upper part of your back off the ground while you lift the stretched out left leg.
The goal is to try and reach the toes of the lifted leg with your hands. Remember always to make sure your lower back is pressed onto the ground throughout the process of performing this exercise. Return to the starting position and repeat for about 15 times, then switch sides. This core exercise is great for cyclists because it helps build a control that is essential in minimizing wasted motion.
2. Power Bridge
This core exercise mainly works the lower back, glutes and hip flexors. To perform this exercise, you lie down on a mat with your face up. Bend both your knees while you lift your toes to leave the heels resting on the floor.
Next, place your arms by your side with your palms facing down. In a single smooth motion, squeeze the glute muscles as you raise your hips while at the same time pushing into your heels. This should make your body form a straight line from the knees to your shoulders.
To get the most out of this core exercise, hold this position for at least two seconds and perform at least 20 repetitions. This exercise helps stretch the hip flexors, which tend to get extremely tight for regular cyclists. It also strengthens the link between your glutes and lower back.
3. Hip Extension
This type of exercise targets the glutes, hamstrings and the lower back. To perform this exercise, start by lying on your mat face down. Next, place your hands under your forehead. Straighten your legs while making sure your toes are resting on the ground.
With your spine straight and shoulder blades drawn backwards, lift your legs off the ground as high as you can and hold the position for about two seconds before going back to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 20 times. This exercise helps build your backside strength to increase the efficiency of the second half of a pedal stroke.
4. Forearm Plank
This exercise works the lower and upper back and the transverse abdominus. You start by lying face down on a mat and then propping yourself up while your elbows are directly under the shoulders. Your forearms should be at this time lying flat on the floor.
Next, lift your hips off the ground while making sure your back is completely straight and the abs are tight. Use your legs and glutes to prevent the hips from dipping or lifting to make sure your body forms a straight line from the head to the heels. Hold the plank position for at least 60 seconds.
The forearm plank builds the muscular endurance needed for one to ride powerfully when in an aero position or in the drops long after the other riders have surrendered and are resting on their handlebars.
5. Side Plank
This exercise targets the obliques and the transverse abdominus. For this exercise, start by lying on the left side with the left elbow placed under the shoulders and the right foot stacked on top of the left one. Make sure your forearm is completely flat on the ground for stability.
Next, raise up your right arm towards the ceiling and lift your hips so your body forms a straight line from the head to the heels. From this position, rotate from your waist while drawing the right arm to reach below the left underarm. Return to the starting position and repeat this motion for about 15 times, then switch sides.
Remember to keep your hips lifted throughout the exercise. Strong obliques improve your stability on a saddle and allow you to safely and confidently take sharp corners at high speeds.
6. Scissor Kick
This exercise targets the inner and outer parts of your thigh, the hip flexors and the transverse abdominus. Start by lying on the mat face up while your legs are stretched out. For support, your hands should be palms down on both sides of the hips. While drawing your belly towards your spine, lift your shoulders off the ground level and look towards the ceiling (use your abdominal muscles to perform this action to avoid straining your neck.)
Now, lift your legs up to a height of around 4 to 6 inches and then start scissoring them, right leg over left, and then left leg over the right one. Try and set your target up to about 100 reps. This exercise gives your forefoot, knees and hips the perfect alignment needed for an efficient pedal stroke.
Execute each of the above core exercises carefully and systematically to avoid inflicting severe muscle injury to yourself.